Scripting News for 9/10/2006

When I read this headline on GigaOm, I thought a Disney character had started a podcast, and wondered if perhaps the chipmunks had started one too. 🙂 

This press release is the first I heard that the EFF (apparently) would like to speak for podcasters. Watch out for the EFF, they tend to sell us out for the tech industry, an industry that has major conflicts with people and organizations that create content. When asked to help us out with Google their answer was “tough shit.” Hey they could have at least engaged in respectful discourse, but they clearly didn’t care what we think. I was pretty sure they’d eventually care. Now they do, and they’re trying to gloss over the fact that they haven’t got our support. I suppose Cory Doctorow speaks for some podcasters, but he sure doesn’t speak for me. Evan Williams? Does he do podcasts? 

Grace Davis: “I’m thinking that the anniversary of Katrina will be overshadowed by the five year anniversary of 9/11 and as much as I was horrified about 9/11, I think Katrina was worse, far worse.” 

I’ve become a regular user of Technorati, but the ads are really annoying because they have these animated characters who speak, out loud: “Please type your message in the text box and let me say it.” Well I tried it a few times of course, like everyone else I had the characters say really stupid things, laughed a few times. I’ve thought about having an animated avatar on my website, even tried to design one with their excellent software, now please it’s time for another ad! I’m not going to type my message (as if I had one) in their text box so some piece of software can mangle it. Goodbye avatar! Please. 

Speaking of Technorati, I realized it’s a River of Links, where Google is like a hierarchic news website (although wasn’t originally hierarchic these days it’s becoming more so). The analogy appears perfect. The first link on the first page in Technorati is not the most relevant, it’s the most recent. The first link on the River of News is the most recent, but it could be a bit of sports news, while news of the stock market crash is two screens down. So, if you’ve been fumbling over the distinction, currency is what a river is all about. When you’re reading Technorati, you keep going until you see something you’ve already seen. Same with the River of News. 

Jim Moore reports on the arrival of ex-Iranian president Khatami at Harvard, for a speech at the Kennedy School later today. “Numerous agents emerged from the cars and surrounded the front of the hotel, with guns drawn, sweeping back and forth over the crowd that quickly came to attention.” 

I have to admit I giggled and then snickered when I read the story of the fake Craigslist posting from a “woman” seeking abusive sex from straight men, and how the guy who impersonated the woman published the responses, which included explicit pictures of the men, their email addresses and names (one works at Microsoft) and cell phone numbers. Having read this piece at Wired, where we’re asked to consider our reaction if he was impersonating “A middle aged woman who doesn’t know she has terrible taste in poetry looking for a man who will buy her flowers, take her for walks on beaches and compose saccharine poems that rhyme,”, I realize I was wrong. Our attitudes toward men, even from other men, sucks. He lists a bunch of other options if the middle aged woman scenario didn’t get to your decency. 

Yesterday I listened to a rather long but worthwhile podcast from the NY Times Magazine ethicist, Randy Cohen, that’s part of a series called Times Talks. I’m a big fan of his column, and the segment he does on NPR every Sunday. The podcast is an hour-plus of rambling, he’s not a good speech giver, but no matter, his point was very powerful. We’ve long assumed that ethical behavior is an indicator of character, but wait, that might not be what’s going on. Social scientists do experiments that show that under different circumstances, a person might not call the fire department when the room they’re in is on fire (if three other people go on doing what they’re doing); or might call it in (if they’re alone). Same person, same character, different circumstances. He shows a lot of other compelling examples. So I giggled and snickered because other people did? Maybe so. Maybe I waited to find out how other people reacted before deciding how I would react. Once I read the column in Wired and realized that other people were parsing it differently (ethically, empathetically) I felt free to let my ethics, my empathy, come to the front. So, I think there’s a lot to Cohen’s thesis, having just conducted the experiment, informally, with my own behavior. 

13 responses to this post.

  1. Your Craigslist, middle-aged women comment reminded me of the following…
    Years ago, before we had all this instant communication and finding a companion was handled through the personals and snailmail responses, some buddies decided to play a joke on me and wrote up a glowing personals ad with all the right keywords (likes long walks, likes sitting in front of a fire, glass of wine, and you, etc.). Unfortunately, this all took place the week my mother died so I was out of town for a couple of weeks. I came back to my mailbox and a big brown envelop brimming with personal letters/photos from lonely middle-aged women. The letters spanned the full socio/economic range from Phd’s to those that could hardly write. The desperation and loneliness expressed in those letters was astounding and I think about them still to this day. I didn’t respond to any, bad timing, but I probably should have, not for a date, just out of respect.


  2. Posted by Rubyeyes on September 10, 2006 at 8:04 am

    When you bring it up like this it reminds me of the HP fiasco. The initial stories seemed almost pro-HP for discovering a leaking director but quickly flipped and gained momentum to pretexting being wrong. Almost like everyone was waiting to see what everyone else thought.

    Personally I can’t help but thinking what I’m sure everyone’s parents have told them at some point … two wrongs don’t make a right. Which could also mean there are scenario’s where nobody is right. I think these are scenarios where people are unsure how to respond.


  3. I like the idea of “River of XYZ”. Actually, we have developed a site of “River of New Products You Can Buy Today On The Web”:


  4. Thank you for mentioning that annoying advatar on technorati.


  5. I think that for several times a day users, Technorati leaves their ads up too long. I was annoyed with that stupid one for the TV show about the baby in the diaper who looked like a mini-me of the adult in the picture? See, it was up for ages a few weeks ago and it didn’t even cause me to recall what the show was.


  6. Any kind of movement on the screen when I am trying to read is bothersome. And seems to be getting worse as I get older. So I try to not look at those ads anyway but the current one with the speech thingie is REALLY annoying, but like Amyloo, I can’t even remember what product/company it’s for. Just now realized that. Maybe folks that are at computers all the time are developing an anti-advertising filter(?) in their brain that blocks the crap out?


  7. Re Google and river of news. A quick note. Do a Google news search, click on “Sort by date” and then choose the RSS/Atom feed to get the results in your favourite aggregator. You get Google news as a river of news on your chosen search term.

    Now I don’t particular like the layout of the news text as produced by Google in RSS so I wrote my own scraper but the principle is the same.


  8. BTW. Still no RSS/Atom from the main Google search. Why is that? And why isn’t there a sort by date option on the main search?

    BTW2. That sort by date, feed to RSS, rea in an aggregator trick works for blogsearch as well. But as we know, Google Blogsearch isn’t a patch on Technorati.

    BTW3. While I’m on this roll, I wish Technorati would have a search RSS feed for “sites that mention my blog excluding any links from my own blog” Like saying e.g. “ecademy” in Google.


  9. Hello Dave,

    …every month since March 2006 over 4 million new mobile subscribers are being added in India…

    Question: What is the percentage of xhtml enabled mobile phones?

    Oh boy:-)


  10. Kevin Marks had that animated character scare the living crap out of everyone during his talk at PodCamp yesterday. I shouted out “that’s a usability problem”. He said he’s going to have strong words with whoever it is in Technorati who approved that advert. It’s surprising, because that sort of thing is usually restricted to the parts of the web which are tasteless and not particularly nerdy (ie. MySpace).


  11. Funny thing about those ads… I don’t see them because I use AdBlock on Firefox. That sure as hell would have annoyed me, had it chimed in while viewing a page in the office.


  12. Watch it sir! 🙂 Cricket is a religion in India (at least) and Sunil Gavaskar is indeed the childhood icon of millions of Indians.



  13. Posted by heavyboots on September 11, 2006 at 1:15 am

    AdBlock for FireFox, PithHelmet for Safari are your friends in the fight against web page advertising…


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